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When Elijah Toavs chose to compete in The Econ Games in 2021, he wasn’t fully sure what he was getting into. It was an entirely new experience for everyone involved as it was the first appearance for the University of Southern Indiana in the national competition.

Now a three-year veteran, the senior economics major is fully aware of the benefits the competition can bring. It’s why he and his teammates are once again looking forward to the challenge this year.

“I’m seeing the practical applications of what I’m learning. It can be hard at times to see how much you’ve learned and to find motivation to keep going,” Toavs said. “Having experiences to practically apply what you have learned provides a drive to continue and a thirst to learn.”

A team of students from the Romain College of Business will compete in The Econ Games 2023 on March 23 and 24 at the University of Kentucky. USI is the defending overall champion of the competition and is participating in the event for the third consecutive year. There are a total of 105 students from 12 universities in this year's event. 

The team members are Hayden Dunigan, Audrey Graber, Gracie Money, Elijah Toavs and Jacob Winternheimer. This will be the first year for faculty advisor Dr. Cathy Carey, Professor of Economics, to lead USI students at the competition. She’s excited for the opportunity to guide them.

“We have some amazing economics majors in this College, and I’m blessed to be working with five intelligent, creative, inquisitive and productive students,” Carey said. “I will enjoy watching them work through an economic problem and present a solution to a potential employer. That’s what economics and the Romain College of Business are all about.”

The team will work with MiddleGround Capital, a private equity firm. They will provide the business prompt to be solved, collect data and judge the final presentations. Students will also get the chance to visit other firms for an employer meet-and-greet.

To prepare for this year’s competition, the team has hosted practice sessions, discussing econometrics and forecasting. They have also discussed strategy and had the opportunity to chat with employers from the firm, while also practicing a provided sample problem.

As the only member of the team with previous experience in the competition, Toavs is hoping the lessons learned the past two years will once again help this time around and guide his team to success.

“The biggest thing I learned from last year’s competition was how to think about problems and questions,” Toavs said. “Instead of just diving in and answering a question that was given to us, my team thought long and hard about what we were being asked, why we were being asked and what variables would affect our answer.”

Opportunities such as this competition can help students become more prepared for post-college life and the job market. It’s also a chance to get involved and meet face-to-face with potential employers.

Why is it important for students to take advantage and get involved before they graduate?

“Because once you hit the job market, it’s too late,” Carey said. “Students who don’t have exposure to employers and the job market prior to graduation will be a step behind those who do. Activities like this will give them the experience they need to hit the ground running.”

It’s also a chance for students to meet peers at different universities who share the same interests as them. It can create lifelong friendships and memories that will stick with them when they reminisce about what their time in college was like.

“In 10 years, you might not remember the exact definition of a term or the method of calculating a certain value, but you will remember these experiences,” Toavs said. “This can give you an incredible opportunity to make memories outside of the classroom that you’ll have for a lifetime.”